Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Babies Want Good Food Too

When Eddy was 4 months old, we began our baby food feeding journey. I was really excited. I have always thought most people fall into two categories: People who eat to live, and people who live to eat. I, by the way, am part of the live to eat team. Food is so delicious. I wake up in the morning thinking about what I'm going to eat for breakfast, and I eat lunch thinking about what's for dinner. Having a delicious lunch waiting for you makes any work morning more pleasurable.

Food is also a huge part of my family. We, to this day continue to get together for family meals on an almost weekly basis (adding chairs as new additions come into the fam,) and any and all reasons to celebrate any achievement by any family member is a reason to get together for a delicious meal. (Followed by delicious dessert as well. Life is short. Eat dessert. That's a whole separate blog post.)

Food is culture, food is happiness, food brings us together. Food. Is. So. Delicious.

So introducing Eddy to the thing that brings me daily happiness was something I was really looking forward to.

Surprisingly, it was tough going at first. We started with rice cereal, which to this day she still won't eat, and slowly started trying pureed fruits at five months. There were a few things we learned in the beginning:

1) Babies have a hard time with chunks. We tried to give her some mashed well-cooked carrot, but even the tiniest chunk of carrot was too much for her, and she barfed all over herself. We have some hilarious video of that. Sorry, Eddy.
2) Spoons are foreign objects that babies generally don't want in their mouths, regardless of how much deliciousness is on the end of it.
3) Sweet things are far more desirable to non-sweet things.
4) Eating is hard and you have to take it slow.

But we persevered and kept trying everyday. The first thing she started eating willingly from a spoon was pear baby food. Then she decided she liked pureed peaches and other fruits. But even with this, she would only eat a few bites willingly, then glue her lips together and no amount of goofing around we did for her resulted in her wanting any more. Trying to keep the whole eating experience a positive one, we didn't push it too much.

During this phase, I bought several jars of baby food just for research purposes. I wanted to see what flavors Eddy liked, as well as taste it myself and check out the consistency. Once I got the info I needed, it was time to make my own. First, I pureed simple-flavored fruits and vegetables and froze them in ice cube trays to keep them in easy portions. Once frozen, I would pop them out and keep them in ziplock bags. I didn't realize at the time how helpful this would be in the future.

Clockwise from top: Pureed yam, peas, apple/pear, spinach, beet/carrot/spinach, peach in center.
When it came time to eat, I would pull out a cube or two, thaw, and heat 'till warm. She was always more willing to eat the fruit purees, but the peas I had to mix with apples or sweet potato for her to eat. She seemed to like them ok, but she really never got enthusiastic about them. Though it made me feel bad to do it, we were washing at least half of what we prepared for her down the drain. (Maybe about an ice cube's worth of food, so not much, but I still felt bad.)

Then at about 6-7 months, we discovered that she would rather feed herself. She liked trying to pick stuff up on her own, and even though the food rarely actually made it into her mouth in the beginning, she liked practicing using her hands. So we gave her soft slices of pear, avocado, and CHEERIOS! Cheerios are a magical food, I tell ya. At about this time, we also discovered that she enjoyed eating small bits of food from our fingers. Whenever we would offer something to her from our hands, she would open up eagerly. This also allowed her to start practicing her chewing motion. She didn't have any teeth yet, but the act of chewing something small helped with swallowing smaller chunks of food. We were giving her tiny pieces of banana, beans, and carrot and she was liking it. (And we were happy that chunks were no longer a catalyst for barfing.)

So we slogged along and still kept trying spoon feeding, since that was the only way she would actually get any amount of food into her mouth. She was occasionally having good feeds, but mostly only eating a handful of bites at each meal along with a few Cheerios. The thing that changed it all was a combination of the appearance of her first teeth at 7 months, and me cooking some real food for her. I found some turkey patties in the back of my freezer, and decided to fix them up for a quick weeknight dinner. I used about a quarter of a patty and pureed it with some cooked butternut squash, a couple frozen cubes of sweet potato and one cube of apples and pears for some added sweetness. That's it. I cooked it all up together in a small saucepan and then blended it with an emersion blender. I froze it into small meal portions in a silicone baby food freezer tray that my mom got me.

Dude, this stuff was so good, I would have eaten a whole bowl of it for myself. I think it helped that the turkey patty was just slightly seasoned.

So this made me think: I'll bet Eddy isn't into eating real food because we really aren't offering her real flavors. Maybe instead of one ingredient, she prefers combinations of flavors. We like different flavors, right? Wouldn't we rather eat food with real flavors and some seasonings than plain steamed vegetables? I know in the beginning it was important to start with really simple flavors to get her into the whole eating thing, but I think breastfeeding helped in getting her palate ready for more complex flavors.

So now my new favorite pastime is to make gourmet baby food. This is where I've found my simple ice cubes of pureed ingredients so helpful. They are perfect ingredients that are all ready for me to combine to make tasty baby food. Since she liked the squash/turkey concoction so much, I looked for other ways to mix vegetables and proteins. The second recipe I created was a tomato basil chicken soup. It included onions, tomatoes, basil, a cube of spinach, and chicken, all cooked and pureed together with some water, and a sprinkle of rice cereal to thicken it up.

The third recipe I came up with was a spaghetti squash tofu curry. First I heated up some leftover spaghetti squash from our dinner the night before. Then I added some silken tofu and a cube of purred apples and pear and mashed it up. For seasonings I used a few dashes of curry, some onion powder and just a tiny bit of garlic salt. My immersion blender came in handy again here as well.

So much ready to eat food!
Seriously. Eddy doesn't know how good she has it. I make sure to taste everything I make for her. I always add the least amount of salt as possible, but I also think that you really need some to let the sweetness of other flavors come through. If it passes my "I would eat it" test, then I know she will too. (Side note: I'm seriously thinking about writing a baby food cookbook with these recipes. Do you think there's a market for it?)

All of these soups I generally make for her to take to daycare. She's finally up to eating three times a day now so that packing a lunch with her bottles has become necessary in the last couple weeks. Sometimes she eats them for dinner, but usually we try to make a version of what we're eating available to her. A baby food mill makes almost any food that we are eating an option for molar-less little ones as well.

Oh, how we love you little Milly.
This sucker can instantly turn almost any food into baby food. When I am cooking, I pull out the various ingredients for her portion before I add the final seasonings that might be too much for her like salt and spicy stuff, or I wash off some of the sauce before grinding it to prevent her from getting too much sodium in her diet. Otherwise, she eats what we eat. Gotta get that habit started early, folks. Here is the list of deliciousness Eddy has enjoyed recently:

* Japanese curry rice
* Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwiches
* Portuguese bean soup
* Creamy pasta with salmon and peas
* Lentil soup
* Roasted veggies

In conclusion... Yes, I have put a lot of effort into feeding Eddy. Like breastfeeding, this has been more work and a lot harder than I was prepared for, but it's something that is super important to me. I want her to enjoy good, wholesome food as much as I do, and not become one of those kids who only eats hot dogs and mac and cheese. It's for her health, my sanity, and really... food. Mmmm.

Yummy food = Happy baby!

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